If spyware is outlawed, only outlaws will have spyware

A bill to outlaw certain forms of spyware is making its way through the House of Representatives. But if you think it will actually prevent spyware from getting on your computer, you have a lot to learn about government.

Spyware, in case you aren’t familiar, is malicious software that gets on your computer, usually through deceptive means, that then sends private personal information about you over the Internet to someone else. Spyware will be used to harvest your e-mail address book to deliver spam to all of your friends, to put unwanted ads, viruses and even pornography on your computer, and possibly even steal your identity. It’s generally nasty stuff.

And if you’ve ever had the stuff on your computer, dealt with the slowdowns, the maddening pop-ups that won’t go away, the pornography and gambling and prescription drug ads, you know how much of a pain spyware can be.

Congress, though, seems to think that they can just make the spyware problem go away by writing some words down on paper. Like they did with the spam problem a few years back. And if you believe that, I have some Viagra to sell you.

“As technology advances, it is imperative that the government remain aware and ahead of potentially damaging uses of that technology. Protecting Internet users from dangerous programs that steal consumers’ identities, invade their software or just plain harass them is a top priority,” Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce said in a prepared statement. . . .

The Spy Act would require companies to be more forthcoming with the terms of their spyware. It would require software distributors and advertisers to clearly notify and require consent from consumers of the programs and applications they download from the Internet.

Offenders could be fined up to $3 million for each unfair or deceptive spyware act or practice and up to $1 million for each violation regarding the collection of personal information without notice and consent. — Consumer Affairs

Like the threat of massive fines stopped the spammers. They just moved offshore. And spam is worse than ever.

The best way to deal with spyware, like computer viruses, is through prevention. Simple safe computing practices will almost always help keep your computer clean and free of malicious software and malicious people. Though it isn’t always enough, and that’s where anti-spyware software comes in. It operates as an adjunct to anti-virus software, and you should have both. For Windows XP and Windows Vista, the free Windows Defender will give you basic protection. If you need anti-virus and firewall software as well, like most people do, you can use Zone Labs’ ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite. This is what I personally use whenever I have to use Windows. I even paid for it.

(My Linux computers, of course, run no anti-virus or anti-spyware software; they’re completely irrelevant.)

Over two years ago, almost at the very beginning of this site, I wrote in more detail about securing your Windows computer. Most of the information is still relevant and useful today.

Homeland Stupidity receives a commission for purchases of Zone Labs products sold through this site. I would recommend them even without being paid to do so.

One thought on “If spyware is outlawed, only outlaws will have spyware

  • April 27, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    I’m sure the last 500 pages of that bill which won’t actually be read by anyone, will have some new bullshit about how the new gestapo can now force recruit kids who get too much detention in school. no child left alive’I mean, behind.

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